A Stormy End of the Month – Wednesday, November 27th, 2019

Howdy Folks,

This is the first of what will become our regular Monthly Updates since moving away from the weekly cadence we had before. For you U.S. folks, it is almost Thanksgiving Day, which is my (Ash) favorite holiday. That also means this is a short week for the studio, as we take a quick break to spend time with family, friends, and loved ones, and make great turkey puns!

Speaking of, this month the team has been gobbling up tasks and churning out some great new stuff. You can check out the concept art for some featured fowl in this update, but the real gravy is the wicked cool knockback and ragdoll tech that Matt and Mike D. have built this month. That said, there’s a lot of good stuffing in the update this month!

In case you missed it, check out the monthly stream with Mark right HERE! https://www.twitch.tv/videos/514122032

As is usual with our weekly updates, we take the most interesting items we’ve been working on for our Top Tenish list. Let’s carve into the month’s highlights!

  1. WIP – Gameplay – The Skald – The last but not least of Camelot Unchained’s support classes, the Skald, is in its final stages of internal testing. The Skald is the only support class with a melee weapon, the Harmonic Frostaxe, making it more of a frontline fighter, and not one that lurks in the back of the fight. Using a combination of damage shouts, buffs, and debuffs, in addition to its melee abilities, the Skald should be a force multiplier on the battlefield. We are in the process of cleaning up some ability bugs, but we hope to have this class available for Backer testing shortly after our Thanksgiving break. Please note that the initial release of the Skald will have placeholder animations for some abilities.
  2. WIP – Infrastructure – Texture Building – Cheyne has been working on improving our build pipeline for textures and materials. This includes a tool that will allow programmers to easily experiment with how textures are compiled together for use in-game. In particular, Cheyne is hoping to use this tool to improve mipmap calculation. This will improve how textures look at a distance, and will also reduce specular aliasing (flickering artifacts on some shiny materials).
  3. WIP- Infrastructure – Transparency Improvements (AOIT) – We have implemented a new system for blending transparent objects in our game. This system eliminates the artifacts you could see, where our large draw distances and high dynamic range would cause bright particles and other partially transparent objects to discolor the background behind them. This is also an order-independent system, which keeps most of the advantages of the old system, allowing us to draw our scenes quickly in single large chunks, and free of sorting-order artifacts.
  4. WIP – Tech – Knockback – Matt has been working very hard on a knockback system that will add a lot of excitement to combat in the game. With both melee and projectile-based knockback undergoing successful internal testing, we’re having fun sending enemies flying with powerful slams and smashes, as well as explosive arrows. Following some polish and optimization, we’ll be excited to bring this system to our players very soon! Check out our test video below of some characters being blown off the top of a tower and then subsequently using the new ragdoll tech to “pose” as they fly through the air!
  5. WIP – Tech – Ragdoll – MikeD completed our Ragdoll 1.0 system, which we’ve been testing internally for a few weeks now. Aside from providing unlimited variation in entity death poses (and reactive corpses!), the system supports partial ragdoll effects on limbs and other body parts, allowing knockback and other effects to produce realistic physical responses to the forces acting on entities. We expect ragdoll to land soon after we complete our internal testing!
  6. WIP – Tech – Overmind – Work continues apace on our version of Skynet for the Unchained Engine. New features have been added to its core functionality and it continues on its march to taking almost complete control over a game. Fortunately, we can always count on code working as intended, so we have nothing to worry about, right? 🙂 You can check out the Newsletter email (going out today as well) for more info from our fearless leader MJ, in his article, “What the Heck is Overmind?”
  7. WIP – Tech – NPC Behaviors – Over a short period of time, NPCs have gone through a great number of improvements. At the forefront, the processing update time of running the NPC behavior trees themselves has been cut by nearly five times, through making a uniform system for target selection. This also allows NPCs to track multiple types of targets, similar to players’ ally and enemy targeting, as well as determine when placed damage-able items (siege engines, fortifications, Dragon’s Web placements, etc) are blocking their path; which means NPCs are now able to attack those items as well. Core behaviors have been updated, using the support of nested behavior trees, allowing NPCs to use new shared core behaviors, while using specific combat behaviors to better support their individual classes. New core behaviors continue to be developed to support advancing scenario tech, which includes easier design control on when NPCs should try to capture an objective, defend specific locations on the map, or find and attack the closest enemy.
  8. WIP – Tech – Navmesh – Our custom Navmesh and Pathfinding system has achieved a major milestone. With the 2D (terrain) feature set now working, we are finishing the 3D capabilities that round out the full system. Lee has been working very hard on this, and is now joined by Mike D. to help drive things home. The focus has turned to performance optimization and bug fixing. Once finished, we will have full support for NPC navigation in our complex, real-time and destruction-rich environments, from tight corridors and stairways in multi-level structures, to dense forests and rough terrain. We are very proud of this system, and look forward to bringing it to our players very soon!
  9. WIP – Tech – Linuxification – We’re almost at the end. Our proxy and physics servers are now able to run natively on Linux as part of a working server stack. Our patcher, which we also use for keeping servers up-to-date internally, can run on Linux and deploy Linux binaries. Our C# servers are all fully ported to .NET Core, and we’ve been using that for hosting on Windows Server, with deployment on Linux instances expected imminently. Currently, the Linux code all sits in a separate branch. Andrew’s making a few people do their normal feature development in that branch to find any workflow issues, and the final merge of it all is planned early next week.
  10. WIP – Design – New Scenario – We’re working on a brand new scenario for our CU backers. This scenario is going to pit our Backers against large quantities of incoming enemies. We plan to be able to show off a ton of the new tech that has been in the works over the last few months, including 3D pathfinding/pathfinding improvements, improved NPC behaviors, knockback, and our new Overmind scripting system. All the pieces have not quite come together yet, but we’re getting very close.
  11. WIP – Tech/Art – Skybowl/SkyDome – Having a great sky and backdrop can be an immersive and enjoyable experience for players. This is something that was brought home to me when I (MJ) first experienced one of my favorite games of all time, Knights of the Old Republic. I want our players to feel the same way about this game, and well, take it up a notch or two. To that end, Michelle and George have been working out concepts for the sky and the backdrop that will look great. Andrew is also jumping in to lend his technical and artistic guidance as well. Item #19 below is the beginning of that journey for CU. One of my personal goals is to have one of the most memorable skydomes/skybowls in any game to date. I don’t want people to feel like they are “just” playing a game, I want them to feel they are in a real world.
  12. Art – Full Medium Armor Male Arthurian Development – The following chest piece was inspired by our previously-shown concept art in a past update. While these pieces are taken from the same concept art and “set” of gear, they were never meant to be only worn together. In fact, Michelle put a lot of effort into making sure each Realm’s gear is interchangeable stylistically with other pieces. This new Arthurian Male Medium chest piece has gone through high poly sculpt and texturing passes so far:
  13. Medium Armor Arthurian Glove – A new glove has been finished, taken from high poly and given the texture treatment. Though this glove could be crafted with a variety of materials, we are starting with your good old standard leather for the discerning medium armor user. Here’s a closer look at one of the pieces, fully textured:
  14. Medium Armor Arthurian Boots, Material quality – As we are making many pieces, we wanted to show a bit of how the quality of material used in crafting can affect the visual look of a crafted item. Crafters, take note!
  15. Texture/Material Variation – And here we explore a bit further on how materials used in crafting can also result in contrasting individual looks for the player. Remember, these are examples of what we want to later accomplish with the crafting system, that have been touched up by an artist. Here’s a hat!
    And here we have a render of the high poly sculpt of all these pieces in progress:
  16. Art – Medium TDD Armor – We’re not forgetting the other Realms! We started with the helm, now sculpted and textured, for the TDD new medium armor. This piece was inspired by the Dark Fool’s Bonereed Pipe, with updated concept art to help the sculptors:

  17. Three new CU world materials – Snowy transitions – Keeping with the season as it turns cold, we are expanding our material library for wintery and cold areas. These in particular are transitions for snowy areas on different ground types. The second image shows how easy it is for us to get variations with a few pokes at some sliders!

    And this same new process we’re using to make these terrain materials also applies to the armor. This worn leather was also done procedurally!
  18. Death Priestesses – Textured Models – These two new sculpted and textured mobs in development are figures you may find yourself running into a variant of while adventuring through The Depths.

  19. Concept art – Veilstorm Skies – We are concepting and exploring Veilstorms. Particularly how they may look and function in an exciting way within the world. Here we can see some of this exploration and experimentation of the wild and magically chaotic Veilstorms. If you look closely at the bottom right, you’ll see the actual CU buildings in there as well.

    I don’t know about you folks at home, but I’m sure thankful I won’t get caught out in those storms IRL!
  20. Concept art – Snow monsters – Adding more depth within the world biomes. These odd ice and snow monstrosities are the creation of freezing cold fronts that coat the lush evergreens in rime (frost). MJ got the inspiration to add these to the game from an article he read about Zao Onsen in the Prefecture of Yamagata in Japan, and the art team was happy to oblige. Between the heavy winds and the sheets of ice, storms bend and distort normal ol’ mountain forests into something fantastical that will create memorable landmarks in the game and something cool to find within the environment.

  21. Concept art – Realm wildlife – Birds of Prey – The Fauna of Camelot Unchained’s vast lands is also getting more concept art love. How animals differ between each unique Realm is getting defined through these creatures, such as these birds of prey.

    That’s one roast bird that I’d hate to see on the menu!

Okay, those are the bigger-ticket items from the past month! Ending on those birds, I know we have a couple artists who want to take a crack at these!

Now, we mentioned knockback and ragdoll above. Here’s some quick test vids (No wasted money on video production, mind you!) of first, the guys getting knocked off the tower, also using ragdoll as they fly through the air (click the images for vids):

That’d knock your feathers right off! One of the cool things is how we can get a lot of posing through ragdoll, based on the physics impulses. In this case the spine bones were locked, allowing the arms and legs to fly backwards opposite the body’s direction. We’d previously explored doing everything in the animation system, with, of course, lots of additional animation work to get something like this. Imagine having to animate bodies flying at different trajectories and landing! But now, with a bit more work, we can begin experimenting with faster ways to make this possible. Also, please keep in mind that this is not an example of a typical ability for Camelot Unchained but rather, it’s experimentation with a combination of knockback and ragdoll using more extreme cases. As MJ would say, “Don’t Panic!” 🙂

Here’s a short vid showing one of our engineers “killing” his player, and then “driving” it around!

There’s a lot you can do with ragdoll, and again, we can’t wait to start using it more and obviously, showing it off to Backers in game!

Now, there’s plenty of other fun things you can do with ragdoll that we’re looking at, but no promises! This vid has an additional experiment with partial ragdoll applied to the player character. It’s pretty hilarious!

Well, that’s it for us this month, guys. While we are speaking of being thankful, I just wanted to take a moment to share our thanks to YOU, the Backers and supporters. You make this possible, and you keep us going. So thank you all so much from everyone here at CSE! Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

I’ll CU in the game,